Row in Cabinet over flood relocation scheme

A scheme to relocate flood-hit homeowners may be widened after disagreement at Cabinet over who is eligible to apply for the special fund.

The scheme to help owners find a new home was not agreed at Cabinet yesterday, after one Independent minister insisted the categories of owners who could apply must be expanded.

It is understood Environment Minister Denis Naughten wants concessions given to owners who may have a history of flooding on properties and not just people who have experienced once-off floods. 

He wants owners who may be affected by future floods and whose lands are flood-prone to be included in the Office of Public Works (OPW) scheme.

OPW junior minister Sean Canney briefed the Cabinet yesterday on the scheme, which is believed to amount to €2m for this year. 

A limited number of relocations will go ahead and funding for new homes valued at between €80,000 and €100,000 are being considered as part of it, said government sources.

The scheme might then be substantially expanded next year so more relocations for owners could be included.

However, objections have been raised at Cabinet over which categories of homeowners can apply.

At present, it is planned that owners whose home is uninhabitable after flooding can apply. However, a second and third category for properties partially damaged and lands damaged will not be accepted. 

Mr Naughten wants to expand the scheme so owners from the latter two are accepted.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil yesterday that it was important any scheme was “not a free for all”. 

A spokeswoman for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said he was supportive of a scheme that was “affordable and fair” to all concerned. 

The issue is expected to return to Cabinet next week.

A spokeswomen for Mr Naughten said he had met with Mr Canney yesterday and the two discussed the scheme and possible changes for the Cabinet next week.

It is understood the Roscommon-Galway TD said the terms for the flood relocation scheme are “too restrictive” and only catered for once-off flooding. 

The minister wants the scheme to allow that the history of flooding at people’s properties is also taken into consideration.

Meanwhile, a business plan on the future of An Post did not go before Cabinet yesterday. 

The Bobby Kerr report is understood to recommend that large numbers of offices are shut as a cost-saving measure for An Post. The report and options to help the company may be addressed next week.

However, speaking in the Dáil, Mr Kenny said many customers wanted state payments and welfare benefits made to their banks. It was up to consumers if they wanted post office branches to remain, he signalled.

“No post office will stay open unless it is used,” Mr Kenny told the chamber.

He said plans for community banking were also under consideration. But the choice was for consumers on where they wanted their money paid.

Elsewhere, the Government is to insist that an independent medical expert is given access to Ibrahim Halawa, who has been in an Egyptian prison and awaiting trial for over three years. 

From Firhouse, Dublin, the 21-year-old’s case was raised at Cabinet yesterday by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.

The minister said: “The Taoiseach and other ministers shared my deep concern when I informed them of a report on Ibrahim’s health, which was provided to me by his legal representatives. I also expressed the deep concern of his sisters Somaia and Fatima about the years of delay in securing their brothers release.

“Following a discussion it was agreed that Ireland will ask that a medical expert, nominated by the chief medical officer, would be given access to Ibraham. This should happen as a matter of extreme urgency.”

The Government is optimistic that Egypt will agree to the medical assessment once the submission is made to authorities there.


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